Virtual call centres a reality

New developments in automatic call distribution (ACD) technology mean that Canadian marketers can now take advantage of a full range of third-party products and features when they want to connect customers to the most appropriate resource within an organization. 'Call centres...

New developments in automatic call distribution (ACD) technology mean that Canadian marketers can now take advantage of a full range of third-party products and features when they want to connect customers to the most appropriate resource within an organization.

‘Call centres have previously been constrained by the walls they operate in,’ says Bob French, managing director of Toronto-based Rockwell Electronic Commerce. ‘Now, we’ve removed these walls, meaning the concept of a virtual call centre has become a reality.’

Rockwell recently introduced Transcend ACD, billed as the first ACD to run on the Windows NT operating system. According to French, this open system connects customers to the most appropriate resource within an organization, allowing the caller to perform a transaction or communicate with the business through phone keystrokes, via an operator, through the Internet or via a combination.

‘We view this as the evolution of the call centre from the telephony world to the IP (Internet Protocol) world,’ says French. ‘The early ’80s saw information technology explode with proprietary systems and the resulting rationalization during the early ’90s saw it move quickly to open standards systems.

‘Now, an ACD like Transcend can be integrated with existing local area networks (LANs) and telephony equipment, meaning Canadian telemarketers can develop call centre capabilities without having to purchase new hardware, software or proprietary phone sets.’

French says that Canadian call centres – traditionally smaller than their U.S. counterparts – are ideal for the new wave of ACD technology.

‘If you look at the Canadian marketplace, you’ll find that something like 92% of the call centres fall below 100 seats,’ he says, citing research conducted by San Jose, Calif.-based consultant Dataquest.

‘Transcend fits in well for this market, because it can be licensed for 20, 40, 60 or 80 users, and that will soon expand to 160. It’s a product and technology that has traditionally been for the high-end, large-scale call centre, brought down to a smaller size.’

And that’s important, French adds, since customer expectations have changed so dramatically.

‘In the last few years, we’ve seen a growing trend towards round-the-clock customer service as consumers and lifestyles become busier and their expectations increase,’ he says. ‘Big business has been able to deliver better service and greatly benefit from the various applications associated with ACD technology, such as skills-based routing, intelligent queuing, call management features and reporting.

‘But it has left smaller organizations behind the eight ball, unable to provide that service and with customers expecting it.’

Transcend can be configured to run with or without an existing switch, which means that a PC coupled with any phone can become a fully functional agent position – at home, at a remote location, or in the office.

Benefits include increased productivity and profitability as the technology enables the organization to reduce the overall cost per customer contact. A report by ACA Research of Boston found that the cost of a sale generated in the traditional way – sales rep visits client at his or office – exceeds $300 per customer contact when all of the operating costs are taken into account. Using telephony and an operator, the cost of a sale can be reduced to between four dollars and eight dollars per customer contact, and to as low as 24-50 cents per contact via the Internet.

‘For direct marketers running a call centre, this solution’s modules are especially important,’ says French. ‘You can have in-bound functionality, previewing and predictive dialing. For organizations doing outbound campaigns, predictive dialing can generate calls as the system connects successful calls to an available agent. If it rings busy or there is no answer, it’s ignored by the system. This can double or triple a call centre’s productivity.’

Predictive dialing – where a system dials up customers automatically, pulls up the appropriate customer file and links the operator to the customer once it detects a human being on the other end – has normally been available only to the large call centre, owing to its cost. French says call centres would typically need upwards of 100 agents before it made sense to spend the money traditionally associated with predictive dialing.

‘But now it can be provided for as few as 20 agents,’ he adds.

Transcend costs about $100,000 for a 20-agent licence. Rockwell has distribution relationships with several telcos in the United States and is considering implementing the same model in Canada.

Also in this report:

- Voice, data converge in e-contact centres: New applications unify voice, e-mail and Web customer contact processes p.D12

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.